Aspen High senior organizes protest in solidarity with schools across the country |

Aspen High senior organizes protest in solidarity with schools across the country

Aspen High School senior Peter DeWetter organized a demonstration at the high school at noon, in concert with 26 other Colorado high schools, to protest gun violence in schools.
Courtesy photo

At noon on Wednesday, Aspen High School students, along with students from 26 other schools across the state, participated in a demonstration to protest school shootings.

According to the protest organizer for Aspen, senior Peter DeWetter, about 30 students participated, which started at the red staircase before moving into the lunch room to grab the attention of more students.

The demonstration follows last week’s shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, where three children and three adults were murdered. It also follows a very real threat Aspen schools received in February that put the district into lockdown.

“Once we received that threat call, it motivated us to look at some things we can do better for both students and teachers. Now that we’re past those calls, we’re trying to do something that will actually make a change,” said DeWetter.

On Feb. 23, Aspen schools and many others across the nation were victims of swatting calls, which forced the schools to go into a real lockdown. Swatting is the act of making a prank call to emergency services claiming an urgent crisis situation, so that large numbers of law enforcement are dispatched to a specific address. Swatting calls are a recurring incident across the country.

This call, which came in at 8:25 a.m., was from someone claiming to be walking into elementary school to shoot all of the kids, with gunshot noise in the background, Pitkin County Undersheriff Alex Burchetta said in a media briefing following the lockdown.

The incident caused district officials to discuss safety measures at the school and improve their incident communication plans.

No mere frightening pranks, as of March 27, there were at least 33 incidents of actual gunfire on school grounds so far in 2023, resulting in eight deaths and 25 injuries nationally, according to Students Demand Action, an organization dedicated to educating, registering, and mobilizing peers to elect politicians who will enact “common sense gun laws.” The organization has more than 600 groups across the country.

“Being a student shouldn’t be a death sentence, but once again, gun violence has forced its way into our schools, leaving nothing but pain, trauma, and tragedy in its wake. We need more than thoughts and prayers. We demand action from our lawmakers now,” Students Demand Action wrote on their website announcing the demonstrations.

The website also offers a “walkout activation toolkit“, with reasons students should participate. According to the kit, gun violence is the leading cause of death for American children and teens, and the 2021-22 school year was the deadliest on record, seeing a historic number of incidents of gunfire on school grounds.

Across the state, schools such as those in Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, Denver, Jefferson County, and the American Indian Academy walked out of class and marched to demand action against gun violence, according to CBS Colorado.

Though they did not participate in today’s demonstrations, students from East High School marched to the Capitol in Denver last month following the shooting and death of a classmate, 16-year-old Luis Garcia, the Denver Gazette reported.

With just 12 hours to plan the walkout, DeWetter felt the turnout was OK, but there’s still room for improvement.

“I was thinking we were going to raise awareness and hopefully gather some people to make a bigger statement in the future,” he said. “Gun violence is a huge problem, and I think students are really going to see that as they go to college and see more on the news.”